Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface: Cheat Sheet

Updated: Microsoft's new tablets - all you need to know.

Microsoft designed the Surface itself, which suggests it lost confidence in its partners' ability to produce a successful tablet. Photo: Josh Lowensohn/CNET News

OK, let's get under the surface of Surface...

Surface is Microsoft's most ambitious attempt to crack the tablet market - and provide a proper rival to Apple's iPad. Surface should not to be confused with the Microsoft's tabletop touchscreen computing offering also previously known as Surface - which is now known as PixelSense.

What's so exciting about Surface?

Possibly the most important thing about Surface is that Microsoft has taken charge of both the software and the hardware and is keen to point out that Surface is "conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees".

Microsoft has designed its own hardware before of course, in the form of the Xbox and, er, the Zune, but mostly leaves hardware design to its partners.

That Microsoft has felt the need to step in with its own design suggests it has finally lost patience with the uninspired tablets its partners have released - and which have signally failed to trouble the iPad. It also reflects how important Microsoft thinks the tablet market will be in the post-PC future, especially as it arrives at the same time as Windows 8.

Tell me about the specs

The first thing to point out is that Surface comes in two flavours - one with an ARM processor running Windows RT, a slimmed-down version of Windows 8, and one with an Intel core processor, running Windows 8 Pro.

Surface for Windows RT will release at the same time as Windows 8, while the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. The Windows RT Surface goes on sale later this week, 26 October, which means the Pro model should arrive sometime in early 2013.

Surface for Windows RT weighs in at 676g and is 9.3mm thick - enough for a standard USB as well as Micro SD. It comes with Office 15 Apps and in 32GB and 64GB options. Surface for Windows 8 Pro is heavier at 903g and thicker at 13.5mm and comes in 64GB and 128GB versions.

Tell me more about the hardware

The tablets have a 10.6-inch, 16:9 widescreen HD display and come with two cameras - a front-facing camera and a rear one angled at 22 degrees to allow users to record events hands-free when using the tablet's integrated stand.

Some elements of the design have created a bit of excitement, most notably the Touch Cover, a 3mm-thick magnetic cover that doubles as a pressure-sensitive keyboard. There is also the 5mm-thick Type Cover, which has moving keys for a more traditional typing feel. The tablet's stand frees users from having to hold the device while watching movies, for example.

So why two models?

Microsoft is aiming at the business and consumer markets, which have very different requirements. And there is one important difference between the Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro devices: Windows RT machines will only run new Windows 8 apps and won't be able to run older software.

Now that lack of backwards-compatibility clearly hasn't hurt the iPad. But it means the success of the Windows RT device will be tied to how many developers build Windows 8 apps, just as part of the reason for the success of the iPad is the vibrant ecosystem of developers building for the platform.

So how much is it going to cost me?

Microsoft previously said pricing would be "competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PCs".

Now the Surface RT pricing is in. It's being sold in three packages – the 32GB tablet on its own for $499/£399, the 32GB model with a Touch Cover for $599/£479 and a 64GB version with Touch Cover for $699/£559. The Type Cover is another $129.99 /£109.99. That means the Surface RT is coming in at pretty much the same price as the iPad – and more expensive than something like the Galaxy Tab 2.

Pricing for the Surface Pro is expected later although Ultrabooks - the high-end of laptop design, according to Intel - can cost as much as $1,000.

Any predictions for how many Microsoft wants to sell?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is building somewhere between three and five million Surface tablets this quarter. That might seem a lot, but in contrast Apple sold around 17m iPads in its last financial quarter.

Still, it seems that the Surface has attracted some early fans: it was made available for pre-orders earlier in October and the 32GB model is currently sold out in the UK, although Microsoft isn’t saying how many that means it has sold. What do Microsoft's partners think about Surface?

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft's hardware partners aren't overjoyed about the Surface because its existence undermines the authority of any Windows 8 tablet hardware they release.

Acer head JT Wang even went so far as to urge Microsoft to reconsider releasing Surface hardware, telling Microsoft via an interview in the Financial Times: "Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice."

Still, Surface tablets are only likely to account for a few million of the nearly 400 million Windows PCs sold in the next year, so is unlikely to cause a major rift. And many of Microsoft's standard hardware partners are working on Windows RT tablets already.

What's the enterprise view?

Surface is the iPad rival that businesses have been waiting for, according to TechRepublic's CIO Jury. Enterprise IT organisations have been obliged to support the iPads that have flooded into business as part of the bring-your-own-device wave, but most IT departments are Microsoft shops, certainly when it comes to the desktop.

So having a tablet that fits with the rest of their enterprise IT architecture is one reason why CIOs are likely to welcome the Surface tablets. Still, not everyone in convinced, with one analyst house warning that Surface could end up being the new Zune.

Is the Surface a genuine iPad rival?

Microsoft is likely to find warm support from enterprise IT for the Surface, as there's plenty of pent-up demand there. Encouraging developers to build Windows 8 apps will be another key element.

However it really needs to crack the consumer market if it is to challenge the iPad - hence the emphasis on wow features such as the VaporMG case, the sort of finish usually reserved for luxury watches.

The success of the Nexus 7 shows that consumers are willing to buy something that isn't an iPad - but Microsoft needs to get the price right.

What’s the response so far? The early reviews are in – with some very positive and some less so. It seems that the hardware has been well received, but the RT operating system and the lack of apps so far, has disappointed reviews. The lack of apps is something that is likely to change and the Surface Pro may have a smoother ride than the RT model – but is shows that Microsoft still has to a way to go before this is a success. Does this mean we’ll be seeing more hardware from Microsoft? Quite possibly – Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has already said that the company will make more hardware. The Surface Pro is on the way for early next year of course, and Ballmer told the BBC: "Is it fair to say we're going to do more hardware? Obviously we are... Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah we'll dive in."

That might not be hugely welcome news for Microsoft’s hardware partners of course. But whether Microsoft really becomes a hardware player will depend on the reception of Surface.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

78 comments
clipperbird
clipperbird

re Pot Calling The Kettle Black - I have seen friends purchase ACER products from various retail outlets in Australia and several have had from minor to severe problems with their purchases. Case in point: Laptop purchase from Hardly Normals, was returned for warranty work within 1 week of purchase due to fatal errors appearing after login (IE blue screen of death). The laptop was sent to Melbourne for repair as the OS kept producing fatal errors, The laptop had Win 7 Pro 64bit installed and after 8 weeks, it was then returned with Win 7 Home Premium 32bit. This was returned to have the correct OS installed, again, another 8 weeks later, laptop returned with Win 7 Pro 64 bit. Lasted 3 days, then the same fatal errors reappeared. This was returned a 3rd time and came back with errors again. My friend could not get a refund or replacement through the retailer as there was a conflict with the repairer, so my friend ended up purchasing another laptop from another company altogether. Needless to say it left a very bad impression on my friend. So the end result is my friend and his circle of friends dont buy Acer any more.

clipperbird
clipperbird

Last night, i was listening to an interesting item on ABC Radio about tablets versus laptops/desktops. The tablet market increased in Australia by approx 30+% over the past 6 months. There are in excess of 5 million tablet owners out of a population of 23 million in Australia at present. There is obviously a corresponding decline in the sales of desktop/laptop PC's. With tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 selling for around mid $400 with the versatility of being able to act as an all in one remote and other functions, it is easy to understand why consumers are getting into tablets. To grab a significant market share of the tablet market, you have to produce something more attractive than the other guys tablet. Hopefully, Microsoft has done its homework and found attractive practical solutions that will appeal to tablet users with its surface program.... Clipperbird

Predacorp
Predacorp

While there is no doubt that the need for a tablet that integrates well with AD is certainly needed in the Corporate world. This is it's only redeeming feature. Cost, sizes and feature set are not making it worth the effort for consumers to take a leap. From what I've seen, many IT Admins despise Windows 8 as a desktop platform. I do, if asked I will warn users to stay away from it, stick with 7. While Windows 8 was in fact designed to work on Touchscreen monitors & tablets. Prices are not at all consumer friendly when alternatives like the Mini ipad, Nexus 7 & 10 loom in the horizon for less. The downfall? RT's lack of backward compatibility, finally a windows tablet! But you can't install your old stuff on it, why? Because you want to milk me for new stuff? Seriously, who comes up with these business strategies? Other than AD and a USB port, what else are they bringing to the table that makes them be the must have item for consumers. Haven't you learned from your previous greedy forays from the past? Remember when you used to build the Xbox360 w/o integrated wireless & saw your fan base migrate to the PS3? Or when they built an "ipod killer" that was hampered with the same draconian DRM, lack of codecs for audio, video & similar GUI with the only exception that it had FM radio? Seriously, I'm a windows fan, but don't embarrass me like that. How many lack luster sales do you need before you realize what consumers want as an alternative? Wake up Micro$oft!

cedric.tanga
cedric.tanga

There'll be lot of poking holes in it ... as for me, can't wait to buy one. I can see my company looking at these seriously from an intergration and support perspective. I've held off buying an ipad brilliant as they are, just too picky for my taste.

Immortal777
Immortal777

I've craved a tablet for a while, but despise the OS on most. The app-driven nature and the fact that the apps firewall their data so it isn't sharable with other apps is too limiting to make it a viable business tool for me. I need a full OS, so the RT really doesn't solve any problems. When I heard about the Surface Pro I was excited. A tablet with a full OS compatible with all my existing software was coming! I expected the timeline to coincide with the Windows 8 release, but now I'm told I will have to wait until 2013 ... well after the release of the RT?! I'm afraid not releasing the RT and Pro versions simultaneously are going to skew sales results (I think most businesses will wait to purchase) and make the release a little lackluster.

Virgil Tracy-Island
Virgil Tracy-Island

Think about what Apple sells: it's not hardware. Electronics manufacturers don't seem to get this, which is why the Android phone and tablet markets are so far behind Apple. Trying to differentiate between business and consumer markets is also questionable. Remember that Apple were criticised in some quarters, including Tech Republic, for not paying attention to the "enterprise" with the iPhone and iPad. As it turned out, nobody took any notice and just bought the things because they are game-changing and brilliant. So forget the "enterprise" Microsoft. Try to change the world, like you did with the PC.

Rover620ti
Rover620ti

My biggest excitement about surface is the potential for some Windows ecosystem compatibility. I'd love to be able to see my Windows network, copy files seamlessly, consume and produce content, and know that I don't have to jailbreak or buy expensive workarounds to even see stuff saved on my PC or NAS. And most importantly - never have to deal with the piece of cr*p that is iTunes! Personally, if it's as high a quality as an iPad I'll be happy with whatever from the hardware perspective. I'll make the price point work - even if it's having to wait for v2 to come out.

M Wagner
M Wagner

I'd bet that the 32GB Surface RT will come in at $599 and the 64GB Surface RT 699 and that the Surface 8 Pro 64GB/128GB SSD models will be $799 and $899 respectively. That gives ultrabook vendors an opening at $999+ and commodity vendors an opening at $399 to $499 - leaving the $199 to $299 range to Android If Microsoft is really aggressive, maybe they will knock off an extra $100 per model but not before the 2012 holiday rush is over.

cybershooters
cybershooters

So there's Windows 8 Phone, Windows 8 RT which is for ARM tablets, Windows 8 Home which is for home PCs and Windows 8 Pro which is for business PCs? I'm confused already, there's too much stuff called: "Windows 8". So what will happen is someone will walk into the IT dept. with their Windows 8 phone or RT device and wonder why you can't install Office 2010 or whatever onto it, I can see it now. Which will annoy IT people and cause "no Windows 8" policies to be adopted.

primartcloud
primartcloud

By now everyone should have some idea of what has been displayed at IFA. The EMOS have come out strong and clearly illustrates how badly informed some of the tech writters have been. I was waiting to see what the Surface RT competition would shape up to be and I've pretty much decided on the Surface. My next decicion will be which Pro version to get or would the large screen all in One's work as a desktop replacement.

dbossini
dbossini

I think Microsoft finally may have something here. I read to many Microsoft bashes on these blogs by short-sighted individuals. To control the OS and hardware will be the only way MS will be able to compete head to head with the iPad. Android is all over the place. There are a dozen or more OS versions and 3-dozen hardware vendors. The quality and consistency is all over the place. To me the choice is either iPad or Surface. IPad is the cool factor and purchased my first Apple product with the iPhone 1.5 years ago. I couldn't be happier but every other computing device I have is Windows based. Integration between both environments are not fun and I still have a hard time shelling out all that cash to move to Apple platform. So back to my point. MS can have so much more flexibility to focus on quality and inovation with ownership of both platforms. Can you say APPLE. Not that they will be the next Apple but look what they did with the gaming world by building their own consoles. Then you have HP's of the world who one day is MS greatest supporter, then turn around and release their own OS, only to turn around and throw all that away. I don't blame MS for telling them to screw themselves. Even want-a-be Google has made the same move. Only concern I have is bloatware and antivirus overhead. These two items if not addressed could tilt the performance factor back to Apple or push those on a tight budget to the Android nightmare. Controlling HW could address bloatware but having to purchase overpriced AV software again is not appealing to me... Exciting times... db

hkeeter
hkeeter

this points more to the lack of inovation in the tablet market. Most of the design features are common sense and having the keyboard part of the cover, and part of the unit being sold is a needed thing. these are not out there ideas, one wonders what the back room conversations were before Microsoft decided to make the device itself. Methinks Acer protests too much.

dlthompson471
dlthompson471

I haven't been able to determine if the battery on the Surface is user replaceable. Does anyone know if it is?

Akais1
Akais1

I think that one of the biggest things that Microsoft did wrong when the announced the Surface, is they did not do it in October. When Apple announces a new product, Boom! it's on the shelves in a week, maybe 2. That means it has not had 6 months of the press speculating on how much it will do, cost, look like, etc. The anticipation of what a product in the rumor mill will given enough time, be way over the wow factor that the product had at its introduction. If Microsoft had annouced this in the middle of October and it was available a week later, people would be selling them for 3X the price on Ebay (just like new Apple products).

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

I've heard a lot that MS are pricing the RT to be 'comparable with equivalent ARM tablets' and that the pro will be priced 'similar to equivalent ultrabooks'. This language is starting to concern me more and more. Now, I'm looking forward to the Surface and those of you here that have been involved in other Win 8 threads probably know I'm a TF101 user (and have been since launch week) by my optimism is starting to fade a little. Here's why: MS bring out the RT at the price of the equivalent iPad. The windows store will have only a few apps initially so beyond possible integration to Microsoft domain environments and the bundled software what will make users who generally think tablet = iPad make the switch? MS bring out the RT at the price of the Nexus 7. again, the windows store will have only a few apps initially and will have similar control on installed apps that Apple have so we have the same question again - what will make users who bought the NEXUS for the freedom of Android make the switch? MS bring out the Pro around the price of the equivalent Ultrabook. same gig - what will make users who want the power of installing windows apps choose to spend similar cash on the surface rather than the ultrabook? I so want this to succeed. MS really do need to price this keenly and not fall into the trap of 'it's for business and Apple is our competitor. Let's use them as the yardstick because that's what people will be happy to pay' or they may well shoot themselves. BTW - I have my own take on the answers to the above and posed them to illustrate my worry. I know why I'd buy one. If MS screw up the pricing though, I will have to reconsider and I'll doubtless not be alone.

RWNorman
RWNorman

There is an absolute requirement for even the RT to become a tool for business, and the only thing that really helps Microsoft is that they have a business infrastructure within which to build upon. That has not been the case for the iPad, nor, to be honest, any Apple product ever since Steve came back into the picture. But Apple doesn't build business solutions, they build consumer devices that have a programming cadre which works the product into their particular needs. Obviously the RT will be of this ilk and the Pro may be the product that has a hard time finding its niche. I own a recording studio and unless I totally dismantled my entire business and started over with Apple products I couldn't achieve some of what I perceive to be possible with the new Surface RT. Of course the Pro would fit right in, but dollars say that if an RT will do the job, then you'd have to have a pretty compelling reason to spend the extra money. But I don't believe Microsoft loses on this one, and to be honest, they are a little late in their decision making process, so catch up is what they'll be doing for the first year. After than, once everyone gets the idea, things will change.

drfaisal
drfaisal

Surface RT may be.. i repeat may be. However, Surface Pro is totally different beast, a class on its own. Seems like the Surface Pro is a full blown productivity tool where iPad is not even close. Since the title is Surface, kindly focus the article on Surface and let the smart people here do the comparative analysis, should they want to do so... sigghhhhh Disclaimer: I am not paid by any of these organisations nor am I a die-hard fan of certain particular company. Just tired of poor / unappropriate comparatives....

cparser
cparser

Unless this tablet will be supported by AD, businesses aren't excited with this.

martin.f.walsh
martin.f.walsh

Had information from Lenovo field sales pushing their Windows8 "PC" that has a detachable screen to make it into a tablet... Looks like they're not phased by the Surface!

sarai1313
sarai1313

were did cnet get the specs the are spouting because they are no where right

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

There are very strict Consumer Protection Laws in place which require any good or service to be usable. If the device was failing so quickly then it's not fit for use and the retailer Must Refund or Exchange the product. What ends up happening isn't what the Retailer wants but what the Customer wants. So if they want a refund and go elsewhere that is their right. Of course here though the fault is Acer's not Hardly Normals as they are just a reseller and not the Country Agent who offers the product for sale and support it till it goes out of warranty. But under AU Law it is the Selling Point which has to offer the Refund/whatever. Col ;)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

That Desktops/NoteBooks produce content and Tablets Consume Content. With a Desktop/Notebook you cam make things like a Movie, or any sort of Document and with a Tablet/Slate or whatever you want to call them all you really can do is consume things. Try entering a E Mail into a Slate. It's doable particularly if it's just a short few words but try entering any news to a friend and things very quickly get tiring. Attempt to edit a video and see what doesn't happen. :^0 Col

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It reminds me of the old line I heard in Economics class. "People don't want power drills; they want holes in the wall."

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

due to IBM allowing just about everyone access to many millions of dollars of research via the ISA technology for next to nothing. If that hadn't been done Microsoft would NOT have had a market to sell to - that's why they used to be called IBM clones.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

but it does require you to have Win 8 on the rest of your system, and you can already get all that with some of the touch centric Ultrabooks that are around and do the same thing with more capabilities in the mobile unit while still using Win 7

danbi
danbi

If you like the Apple way of doing things, then by all means go and buy that Apple computers (desktops, laptops). I don't think you will ever look back. The British have this saying: "I am not rich enough to buy cheap (things)" About the Xbox: this is not really that significant outside the US. I have yet to know someone who actually owns and uses an Xbox. Where I live, there was recently an offer "An 40" LG HDTV + Xbox 360 for 500 EUR only!". And that's including 20% VAT. So, the Xbox is being used as "boost" for sales of things people do not want.. and those things aren't even Microsoft's! Anyway, let's wait and see how good they do.

danbi
danbi

This simply means they do not see any profitable future in being an Software-only house.

nvladisa
nvladisa

what Pro is bringing to the table. Everyone is talking about different ways to BYOD and integrate to business environment. BTW, what is battery life on Pro? Nobody talks about that and it would be silly to carry charger for the tablet all the time. If RT is not running the x86 PRO apps (cannot, of course), no apps, other than maybe slick looking hardware, why get it? Business use for Pro using Metro (or whatever they call it) without stylus? In my mind, MS is too late in the game. Yes, it'll get $ but not as they could 2 years ago (and releasing Pro in 2013 !!????)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the Surface RT will NOT be able to connect to a domain. The Surface Pro will connect to a domain and will be an attack on the Ultrabook market but not quite as technically capable as an Ultrabook.

sarai1313
sarai1313

of you folks telling me that the O.E.M.'s won't bow down to windows 8.haha

sarai1313
sarai1313

thats right if you see it in wiki then it has to real give me a brake. that like saying if it is on the inter net then it has to be real. hahaha

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

Or in this case, people don't want tablets - they want attractive mobile computing?

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

"BTW, what is battery life on Pro? Nobody talks about that and it would be silly to carry charger for the tablet all the time." Exactly. This is one of the advantages to a good tablet. The battery life must be suitable to the usage profile, particularly on the pro. I don't want to worry about charge in my productivity device more so than my entertainment tablet.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

Ah - yep, DE - I missed that line. That just makes the conundrum worse. I still say the pricing must be right or MS will find it difficult to get traction.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

would you provided them? Do you have proof of the inaccuracy of the ones cited?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

I think it can be accepted as accurate in this case. I use wiki as a start point as they usually have a good list of source info that allows you to go back to valid source.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

I wasn't being specific, really. Yeah, I'll go with social connectivity and multimedia consumption on the move. Then again, I use my Dell Streak for that. My tF101 replaces my laptop for all except silverlight applications. I even VPN back to work on it. Works for me :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

My limited observation is that they want mobile media consumption, not full-fledged computing, with social connectivity a close second.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

How about a third answer? Apple have had success in the percieved stability of their tablet and laptop platforms because there's nothing of the hardware a user can change or replace. As such, Apple are ALWAYS aware of the hardware their system is running and can optimise the OS appropriately. No changes = high stability. Now, look at Android. So many different combinations of hardware lead to different user experiences. Some people as a result will love Android and some will hate it. The same with WinTel laptops only more so as certain parts can be changed by the user easily. MS are trying to avoid the whole 'differing hardware' angles by controlling what the Surface is. You can bet your bottom dollar this will lead to an annual 'new' surface release schedule to keep up and to sell ever more units to the same userbase, a-la iPad and Mac laptop.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

battery size with the RT being 31.5 W-h and the Pro at 42 W-h. There are also a couple of other tech differences in the hardware with the RT being 32 or 64 GB and the Pro as 64 or 128 GB; RT has only USB 2 while the Pro has USB 3 - - why put out a new device as only USB 2?? Pro also comes with a Palm block. Weight RT 676 g - Pro 903 g. Those are the main spec differences of the hardware.

Skruis
Skruis

W8Pro Core i5 based slates with 1080p - Expect around 5 hours W8Pro Atom based slates with 1366x768 - Expect around 10 hours Window RT tablets - Expect 10 hours+ That info isn't directly related to the Surface but from other manufacturers (Samsung, Sony, etc). There are some tricks with the detachable keyboard's where secondary batteries supply additional juice (Atom's getting 20 hours) but that's pretty much it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You're the one who claimed the specs in the article were wrong. If the specs are a 'security' issue (which they aren't), your asserting they are 'wrong' (which they aren't) has already breached it. Exactly whose security do you think it violates to discuss them? Are you working for Microsoft now? You've posted when you don't know s#it (again), and you've been called on it (again). THAT'S why you get 'beat up'. I'd ask you a third time to post specs and sources you have that contradict the original article, but by now we both know you don't have anything.

sarai1313
sarai1313

remember it is all vaporware. till it is in your hand

sarai1313
sarai1313

That would breach security. No thank you. You can wait and see like every one.